6 FEBRUARY 1948, Page 1

Persia's Turn

It is Persia's misfortune to be large, weak, and full of oil. This means that she can never be left alone, but continues to be a source of suspicion between the Powers. The Russians are now accusing the Persian government of allowing the Americans to turn Persia into a " military-strategic base " and have produced several examples of the way in which they claim that this is being done. The terms of the Russian note in which the accusations are made are unusually

peremptory, so that the Teheran government, which is probably more of a connoisseur of Russian notes than any government in the world, is bound to treat them seriously. This development cannot however be unexpected. When the Russian-sponsored government of Azer- baijan collapsed the set-back to Russian influence in Persia was considerable, but it was obviously only a matter of time before Moscow tried some new means of asserting itself, and an attack on " American imperialist activities " is in keeping with prevalent practice. There is, as far as one can judge, no reason to credit the American military mission in Persia with such widespread or such sinister intentions as the Russians attribute to it. Many more than the present handful of Americans there are in the country would be required to turn it into a base or the Persian army into an aggressive instrument. For, although they often tend to be over- looked in the diplomatic excitement, there are always the Persians to be considered, and they have no more intention of surrendering their independence of movement to the Americans than to the Russians. They have always had a frustrated desire to be left undisturbed and have developed considerable skill in playing off their would-be benefactors against each other. They have denied all the Soviet allegations, but they will need all their skill if they are to resist the new Russian drive for control of the northern provinces of Persia.